Poems. With Elegies on the Authors Death.London: printed by M. F. [Miles Fletcher] for John Marriot, 1633 Stock Code: 82696
NotesFirst edition of the principal collection of Donne's poetical works, issued two years after his death. This copy has the two inserted leaves with "The Printer to the Understanders" and the publisher John Marriot's Hexastichon Bibliopolae, not always present, and has the leaf Nn1 in the earlier uncorrected state with 35 lines of text on p. 273 instead of 30 or 31, with omission of the usual running headline.
With the exception of a few rare small pieces "none of Donne's poems was printed in his lifetime" (Hayward). The editor of this first edition evidently made use of more than one group of surviving manuscripts, while he made a number of minor changes on his own authority. The book closes by printing a clutch of Donne's letters along with a group of elegies by, among others, Izaak Walton, Henry King, and, most notably, Thomas Carew ("Can we not force from widdowed Poetry, now thou art dead (Great Donne) one elegie to crown they Hearse?") - "considered by many to remain the finest example of literary criticism in verse, imitating Donne's style in order to encapsulate and celebrate his achievement" (ODNB). The 1633 Poems remains the best early text of the most important of all metaphysical collections.
Provenance: ownership inscription (on front free endpaper) of "W. Morfill 1853": William Morfill (1834-1909), Slavonic languages scholar, was Oxford's (and Britain's) first professor of Russian. On 28 May 1853 he went up to Corpus Christi on a scholarship, so this volume may have been a gift on that occasion. Morfill had a lifelong fondness for Donne: in an article on Robert Browning for the Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine (1912), the American literary scholar William Lyon Phelps recorded that "I fancy Donne will survive all our contemporary criticisms of him. I well remember the good talk I had at Oxford with the late Professor Morfill. With the utmost enthusiasm he quoted from memory verse after verse of the great seventeenth-century poet".
Small quarto (182 x 133 mm). Contemporary sprinkled calf sometime neatly rebacked with the original flat spine and label laid down, corners refurbished, spine divided by simple gilt rules and floriate roll-tools, sides bordered with a blind French fillet, red sprinkled edges. Housed in a brown cloth solander box by the Chelsea Bindery.
Without first and last blanks, covers scratched and marked with eight wormholes to the rear cover, corners bumped and extremities rubbed, spine darkened and creased, faint tanning to paper with the occasional minor mark or spot, but overall a very good copy.
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